Helmut Schmidt, Published June 12 2012
Incumbents keep seats on Fargo School Board raceFARGO – The four incumbents kept their seats Tuesday in the Fargo School Board election, according to complete but unofficial results from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s Office.
With 15 of 15 precincts reporting, John Strand led with 15.6 percent of the vote, followed by Robin Nelson with 15 percent, Paul Meyers with 12.4 percent and Jim Johnson with 11.2 percent.
Leading the pack of challengers for the four-year seats were James “Jim” Ebsen with 7.9 percent, David Gibb III with 7.7 percent, Lillian Jones with 7.4 percent and Marty Livingood with 6.8 percent.
They were followed by Brandi Malarkey with 6.4 percent, Jordan Franzen with 5.6 percent and Jonathan “J.J.” Gordon with 3.7 percent.
“I’m honored and I’m humbled,” Strand said. “I respect the voice of the people so much.”
“To me, these elections are pretty exhilarating,” Nelson said. “Nothing means more than what the voters have to say. They have spoken and we will move forward.”
“I’m excited to be part of the group that’s going to continue to work on the Fargo School system,” Meyers said. “I was worried with 11 candidates. Some were trying to portray this as a referendum on our work on things like Bluestem (Center for the Arts). I think the public showed they value the good work that we’ve been doing.”
Attempts to reach Johnson late Tuesday were not successful.
Board members are paid $12,000 a year.
The School Board will be reorganized at its July 17 meeting, Johnson said.
The current board will take care of any outstanding business, and then the new board members will be seated. For a time, the superintendent of schools will run the meeting.
Once the new board is seated, the board will elect its officers, Johnson said.
Since December, the board has grappled with how to handle problems tied to the $15 million Bluestem Center for the Arts in south Moorhead.
The facility is home to the district’s Trollwood Performing Arts School, widely considered the region’s top high school summer arts program.
Because of the financial ills of the Bluestem fundraising group, the School District has been paying the bond payments for the facility – $286,000 in December and another this month. The district has also paid all of the operating and maintenance costs.
While the district has paid those costs, the Bluestem board of directors has said it can’t raise funds to pay either the $2.1 million in construction bond payments remaining for the Bluestem Center, or a $2.7 million loan made by the district to complete the facility.
The School Board recently voted to inform bondholders and the Bluestem board that it will pay the remaining bond debt by Aug. 1. Unless another operating agreement is in place, the board could take over all the lease rights to the Bluestem Center.
The School Board is still in talks with the Bluestem board to create a new operating agreement for the facility.
Of the 52,842 votes counted, Strand had 8,247 votes, Nelson had 7,950, Meyers had 6,573 and Johnson had 5,915.
Ebsen had 4,153 votes, Gibb had 4,043, Jones had 3,926, Livingood had 3,611, Malarkey had 3,385, Franzen had 2,971 and Gordon had 1,975.